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Laurie Niles

Results of the 2011 Etienne Vatelot Violin and Bow Making Competition, Paris

December 12, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Anyone who cares about the art of the violin should also care about the state of the art of violinmaking (otherwise known as 'lutherie') and bowmaking.

Indeed, luthiers and archetiers (bowmakers) around the world continue to perfect the craft, turning out works of art we call violins and bows, every day. To this end, I'd like to bring you some news from a recent contest, held in France, in which American makers fared very well against the competition.

The following is a synopsis, from the 2011 Etienne Vatelot Violin and Bow Making Competition, held in Paris in November.

* * *

At the 2011 Etienne Vatelot Violin and Bow Making Competition held in Paris in November, American bowmakers came out on top in the traditionally French dominated field.  Minnesotan Matthew Wehling garnered first place for a cello bow and second place for a violin bow, while Morgan Andersen of Washington state won top honors for his violin bow.  The first prize for viola bow went to Gary Leahy of Ireland.

In the instrument making categories, German Markus Klimke doubled by winning first place for a viola and second place for violin.  Australian Peter Goodfellow (residing in Scotland) scored top cello prize, and France’s Philippe Mahu was a crowd favorite when he accepted his award for top scoring violin.

The Vatelot competition is particularly significant for bowmakers for two reasons.  First, it honors Etienne Vatelot, whose book Les Archets Français ("French Bows") remains an important resource nearly four decades after its publication.  Second, as it is held in Paris, the home of bowmaking, the competition draws the highest caliber of entrants.  This is only the fourth time the competition has been held.

Full results and photos from the concours can be seen at


Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Morgan Andersen - U.S.A.
Second prize: Matthew Wehling - U.S.A.

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Gary Leahy - Ireland
Second prize: Eric Fournier - France

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Matthew Wehling - U.S.A.
Second prize: Alexandre Aumont - France

Second prize: Boris Fritsch - France


Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Philippe Mahu - France
Second prize: Marcus Klimke -Germany

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Marcus Klimke - Germany
Second prize: Antoine Cauche - France
Award GLAAF: Philippe Mahu - France

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Peter Goodfellow - Australia
Second Prize: François Varcin - France
Award EILA: Joël Klepal - France

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Richard Gonon - France
Second prize: Mathieu Millet - France

* * *

Here are some pictures of Matthew Wehling's prize-winning violin bow:



From Terry Hsu
Posted on December 13, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Unlike instruments, bows are awarded based upon craftsmanship only. A great playing rough hewn bow will not win in this type of competition.

Which is probably the only fair way of assessing bows. What makes one bow better than another has so much to do with how it resonates with a particular instrument.

But winning a competition really doesn't seem to tell you that much about how good the bowmaker is at making bows that sound good. It shows mostly which bowmaker can make pretty looking bows. And it allows bowmakers to raise their prices since they can point to certificates that they have won.

From Brian Lee
Posted on December 13, 2011 at 4:32 PM
Has anybody seen Peter Goodfellow's youtube video where he carves a violin back using a chainsaw?
From Christopher Burndrett
Posted on December 13, 2011 at 4:36 PM
Congratulations to the winners!

I recall a bowmaker handing me a bow telling me that it was made for a competition, so "please excuse the sharp edges." That comment always confused me. Are bows for competition really made differently than for those for players????

From Terry Hsu
Posted on December 13, 2011 at 7:19 PM
Yes, bows for competitions are made differently than bows for players. Although people do buy competition bows later. I've never played a competition bow but I've heard that you can give yourself a "bow" cut with the frog if you're not careful.

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